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I was discussing a dream with a friend, and our discussion lead us to in interesting question. Freud, Jung and probably many others have thought and written a lot about the content & possible meanings of dreams, but as far as I can tell, there's not a lot of info on why we dream.

Why would anyone dream about things that somehow relate to the waking & conscious life, when it is not exactly clear how the dream and reality relate? How can the dreams that rise up from our unconscious help us in everyday life, when the relation or meaning isn't entirely clear?

In other words, what's the use? What's the purpose?

Personally, I think that dreams are another resource of knowledge for us, unrelated to rational knowing. But I'm not sure, and I would like to hear other opinions.

Many thanks in advance :)
 

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I thoroughly enjoy dreaming. I'm typically lucid in them, but I like watching to see how they play out, only intervening to correct an error, add a plot twist, or wake myself from a nightmare.

I find dreaming to be a wonderful opportunity to work through some problems I may be experiencing, or practice a speech, walk through hypothetical scenarios, or even vent my frustrations.

The dreams I am not lucid in, however, are still interesting. I enjoy trying to link the subtle metaphors to their meanings. It feels like your mind is trying to communicate with you and help you out, but can only "speak" in pictures. I'm sure that's close to what's going on there. Dreams would serve no purpose if they didn't have some meaning to them; they'd just be information dumping grounds that your mind sorts through as it processes that day's information.
 

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It is the process of clearing our short term memory and turning it into every fiber of what makes us who we are. This allows for more memory for to soak up new experiences and continue growing and flourishing as people / personalities! With out REM, we would not grow.. The same thoughts would just keep swirling around forever in our minds and we would go insane.
 

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Dreams seem to be narratives we construct about things that are important to us, using the tangible memories of the day (or of recent times). It's like all these characters and objects cut out of the day's "photos" in our heads, and we pick them up and use them to embody stories what we've recently been feeling and dreaming and desiring and loathing and fearing. This is why the stories often make no sense, especially if we focus on the specifics of the items in our dream -- they look like they should be familiar, but they are more likely to be used symbolically for internal drama that consciously might not be as obvious to us.

Then of course mentally the brain is also sifting all those tangible memories and processing/packing/unpacking them, in order to rid itself of clutter.
 

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I dream differently than most.

They are vivid stories, occasionally, where I may have no identity within them, or I am watching from the perspective of someone else, or I am someone else. Or, I could be me.

Although they can be lucid, especially if it's a nightmare, I have lost track of my personal identity, memories, etc., and usually take on a different role than myself, sometimes with completely new memories.

My dreams are like books, and anytime I've told anyone about them on a regular basis, they usually say something like, ''Ah, here we go again.'' For some reason, as fascinating as dreams are to me, they don't seem to be as such to others.

They are enjoyable. And what's even more fascinating is discovering the why of it. Could it be that they are designed to process data from the daytime, and to trash the unnecessary? Maybe.

Dreams are so weird, it's a wonder that we all think of them as 'normal'. Experiencing vivid hallucinations while we sleep...
 

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I suppose dreams exist as an escape from the stress of reality. It would be akin to therapy I think. Dreaming would be the body's natural mental healing. That being said, I wish it were true in my case. As of late my dreams have been filled with nothing more than anxiety, terror, and depression. And almost always it has nothing to do with the context of what is being dreamt (?), but rather the dreamer.
 

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I think it's a way to communicate your conscious feelings to your unconscious self and vice versa. They are hard to understand because the language required to communicate between consciousness and subconsciousness is not a language we know. It's basically like saying "hey subconscious self, I figured out today that I'm afraid of spiders." Then from then on your subconscious will take over when spiders are around. I think dreams are responsible for the growth and diminishment in your subconscious self. I also believe your subconscious is determined by your conscious feelings and decisions, for the most part.
 

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Why we do we day dream? Why do we fantasize at all?

There are two kinds of thinking:

1. Directed thinking. This is logical thinking, and obviously directed. It is kept on track. To write this post takes directed thinking. To do homework or learn new concepts takes directed thinking. Directed thinking can often be exhaustive.

2. Fantastic thinking. When I am driving down an empty road on a nice summer day, with the great smell of summer and good music blaring.. I am just thinking. My thoughts are brought together by gravity. I don't have to put them together, they just flow. This kind of thinking is never exhaustive and comes easy. It is often even pleasurable. This kind of thinking is always monitored by direct thinking though, so you never truly enter the 100% fantasy world. I basically think dreaming is just fantastic thinking without the direct thinking monitor. It is a kind of primitive thought, it is how our ancestors always thought. So we can kind of see into the past, into an animal type of thinking, when we dream. A mind before directed thought.

I don't think dreams are just random. They are just in a language we don't understand. There is some logic and purpose to them.
 

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My dreams, usually I'm in them, yet I'm also looking at it like it's a movie. I've even had dreams with their own soundtracks and once, at the end, there was a credit roll like at the end of a movie. I've woken up and a certain song during the dream/movie will be stuck in my mind for at least half an hour. And I've had many recurring dreams; once it was a continuation every night for three days, and other times it'll continue on a few months later, or even years later. I never really "shake" them... they always come back, lol.

But they're extremely, extremely vivid and usually filled with action and stunts and battles, massive strategies and intricate plots and I've even fought an entire war in one (it spanned on for dream-years), so I actually prefer not to dream, as I don't feel rested when I wake up, if that makes any kind of sense. It kind of feels like I ran a marathon instead... It's probably just a mental feeling, not physical at all, but it's just wearing in every way.
 

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One of the reasons why dreams make little to no rational sense is because during REM sleep, with respect to the awakened state, the prefrontal cortex shows less activity while the limbic system lightens up. So it's no surprise that dreams have more to do with desires and emotions and less with laws of physics and logical coherence.
 

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I do think dreams can be interpreted, but I don't think of them as messages from a supernatural being or anything like that. The meaning of a dream depends not only on its content, but on what that content signifies and symbolises to you. So, in other words, you are the only person who can interpret your dreams. Other people and dream dictionaries might be able to offer some prompts, but you have to decide for yourself whether the possible meanings they're offering resonate with you. When I talk about dreams having a meaning, I don't mean that they necessarily have clear messages. They might just be exposing a fear or desire that's deep down, for example. I don't see that view as in any way contradicting anything scientists might discover about the purposes and evolutionary advantages of dreams. Even if they're just random signals in the brain, the way you interpret them and try to make sense of them can surely offer some valuable insights.

Dreams can also be a creative outlet, because of the lack of interference from the rational, analytical part of your brain, that part of your mind that wants to put everything in order and make it all make sense, the part of you that makes judgements about whether or not your ideas are any good. Getting into the optimal state of mind for creativity is much more difficult when you're awake. The lack of logical thinking has its disadvantages, though; More than once I've dreamed what would've been a fantastic story, except for the huge plot holes I noticed as soon as I woke up. And that's why, in any kind of creative practice, you need both types of thinking.

So... I still haven't answered the question of why we dream in the first place. That's a fascinating question which I don't have the answer to, but even if we never know, or they don't have any real purpose in an evolutionary sense, it's still worth making use of the ideas and insight they can offer.
 

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Dreams offer insight into our own emotional life. They help process and realize how we feel, when we have repressed certain needs, desires, wants. Personally, I've made significant life-changing decisions after interpreting a dream. If you take them seriously, they compel you to change and strive towards achieving greater understanding into yourself.

Jung said that the subconscious mind was the seat of the religious experience.

EDIT:This is kinda silly, but this is a video I uploaded on youtube recently discussing a dream I had and my thoughts about it... I apologize for the sound quality.
 

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Some more thoughts on dreams:

One interesting thing about them -which is rarely discussed and taken for granted- is that we have all had similar dreams. For example, I'm sure most of us have had a dream where we were naked at school, or work. Or dressed inappropriately at a place. That is a pretty popular dream. There are many popular dreams like that. So the question is, where did these dream narratives come from? And that's another thing about dreams, they aren't just nonsense. They aren't just thoughts thrown together chaotically and senselessly. The dream is telling a story. It is often a strange story, but still a story. It has an author. Your brain could never randomly just produce something like that. Your mind is trying to do something. It is telling a story, and if were to look inside our heads we would see that many of the narratives our similar. So the question is, how did we learn these narratives? Where did this archetypical naked dream come from? What is the origin of our dream content?

So what I think happens is that we have a certain issue in our life, like feeling exposed or vulnerable, and our brain metaphorically turns that into the dream of being naked. It is an anxiety dream. Freud and Jung basically thought that metaphor was the "logic", and language of dreams. Dreams certainly have a logic to them, it's just no the logic we are used to of the waking, conscious mind. It has to be learned.
 
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